Low back pain, which is frequently related to intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration, is highly prevalent in Western society. It is a debilitating condition and represents a high cost to companies and patients alike. In the study of disc degeneration it is difficult to integrate experimental and clinical knowledge. Computational modelling has become a promising tool to bridge this gap. Although many studies suggest that sustained compression loading is critical for disc cell viability, a recent experimental study showed that the combination of cyclic compression and torsion loading triggers cell death (Chan et al., 2013). However, they do not provide a clear cause for such death.
The work that I am currently developing consists in replicating this experiment using a finite element (FE) approach in order to gain further understanding as to why cells die under such loading conditions applied to healthy IVDs. The results at the tissue level from these simulations will be used for further studies at the cellular level. Ultimately, the objective would be to interpret the combined effects of cell biology, mechanical loading on the extracellular matrix, and explore the complex inflammatory and catabolic processes likely involved in IVD degeneration.
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*S. Chan, J. Walser, P. Käppeli, M. Shamsollahi, S. Ferguson and B. Gantenbein-Ritter, ‘Region Specific Response of Intervertebral Disc Cells to Complex Dynamic Loading: An Organ Culture Study Using a Dynamic Torsion-Compression Bioreactor’, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, p. e72489, 2013.